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Top Ten list for Getting Your Car Ready for Summer
1. Make sure to routinely rid of your car of road chemicals that may be on the undercarriage.
Use your garden hose to thoroughly spray and rinse the undercarriage of your vehicle. If you live in the northeast especially, you want to remove any salt and road chemicals that may lead to the formation of rust. Check your local area for commercial car wash facilities that spray the undercarriage.
2. Check the tires
Tire pressure changes about 1 pound per square inch for every 10 degrees Fahrenheit change in outside temperature, so it’s important to check tire pressure after weather changes. Check your owner’s manual for the recommended pressure for your tires. Also, look at the pressure recommendations on the driver door jam tag. Follow those recommendations!. Always check pressure when the tires are cold (before you start driving the car). Also, note your owner’s manual for tire rotation recommendations.
3. Windshield Wipers and Washer Fluid
Not very costly to replace but very important when you need them. Wipers (blades/refills) vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and will last 6-12 months based on usage, weather and individual makeup. Always use replacements designed for your vehicle model and make sure they come in full contact with the windshield. They are frequently on sale so get a spare set. Only use windshield wiper fluid in the reservoir. Do not fill the reservoir with tap water.
4. Change the Oil and Filter
This is one of the most important steps of this top ten list. Dirty oil is…well….dirty. Contaminants include combustion by products, water from condensation and tiny metal shavings from engine wear. You don’t want these contaminants sitting in the engine for extended periods. Oil (and filter) changes are inexpensive and changing the oil means that the contaminants mentioned above won’t be recirculated over and over in the engine. Again, follow the recommendations in your owner’s manual and those of your trusted mechanic.
5. Change the engine air filter and cabin air filter
These are inexpensive, but very important. The engine air filter filters out dust and other airborne impurities from getting into the combustion chambers of the cylinders. Clean air results in less wasted gas, more efficient combustion and better engine performance. Broken record here, but again check your owner’s manual for the filter change schedule. If you live in a dusty place or encounter higher than average amounts of dust and airborne debris then take those factors into account. Don’t forget to change the cabin air filter – this filter removes pollutants from the air that the passengers breathe.
Tip – take a permanent marker and write the date on the filter when it was replaced, that way you won’t forget when it was changed and you will not replace it too soon.
6. Flush and fill your cooling system if necessary.
Many new cars come with “long life” anti-freeze/coolant that lasts for about 5 years (or 100,000 miles). Your “mileage” may vary of course. If your car’s coolant has not been changed for 5 years then strongly consider a change. This procedure may be best to have a trusted shop perform since they have the expertise and the ability to catch the old coolant that is drained out. Validate the ideal replacement with the shop and confirm via the owner’s manual/car manufacturers recommendations. Don’t forget the flush and fill – you do not want to be that person pulled off the road with steam coming from under the hood. Keeping an eye on your coolant level (and its age), like oil changes are key steps in this top ten list.
7. Check the radiator and gas caps.
Visually inspect the radiator cap to make sure the gasket is not torn or damaged. The radiator cap helps to maintain pressure in the system which keeps the coolant circulating and in doing so prevent the system from over-heating (car stuck on the side of the road with steam coming from under the hood). Only ever replace with a cap that is recommended for your vehicle. Like the radiator cap, visually inspect the gas cap (especially if you drop it or run over it at the gas station…;-). The gas cap should fit tightly, always make sure to hear the “click” when you put it back on after fueling up. A loose cap may trigger a check engine light (CEL) and may also let gasoline vapors escape. When gas vapors escape, you are throwing money away and it is also not good for the environment
8. Check the battery
Yes, batteries can fail in warm weather. Visually inspect the battery, and make sure that the (positive/red and negative/black) connections are tight and free of any signs of corrosion. Most new cars have maintenance free batteries meaning that you never have to add water. All car batteries have a finite lifespan (about 5 years, but highly variable) and they don’t always give out in cold weather or at a convenient time. Find out what kind of battery that your car has and how old it is. See How to read Battery code
9. Clean the Interior
Everyone likes to have a clean car interior. Take the floor mats out, wash and rinse. Vacuum the carpet to remove dirt, crumbs and any odor causing substance or item. Wipe down the dash/console with a cleaner made for auto interiors. Likewise, clean and condition a leather interior with products made for leather. Remove any trash or debris from under the seats (it’s amazing what gets under the seats), clean the windows to remove haze or “film”. You will be amazed how clear things look at night after cleaning the windows!
10. Clean the Exterior
In the morning or evening or in a shady area, use a strong stream of water to rinse away dirt any debris (grit). Use your garden hose to rinse this grit off before you wash (or you will grind the debris into the finish).
Commercial car washes usually wet the car surface before anything brushes touch the car. Car Wash concentrate is inexpensive. Use the directed amount from the manufacturer (don’t skimp) in a bucket of water. A clean, soft sponge or car mitt will do nicely for the washing, using a different sponge for the body and the tire rims. Gently dry with a chamois or soft terry cloth (turning frequently) to a sparkle worthy of summer sunshine. Apply a protective coat of automotive wax if necessary and your car is good to go! This top ten is a good start. Enjoy the summer and your car!
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